Rizzio – Denise Mina

 

Wonderful description of a terrible plot to murder!

A Fabulous take on this shocking episode in Scottish history. I had a vague picture of the event but Mina’s wonderful ability to tell a tale brought it all to life. I was there in those creepy, dank, dark corridors of Holyrood Palace trying to keep away from a company of mad men egged on by each other to put an end to the Queen’s favourite. Thank you Denise – I love all your books and will cherish my signed copy of this engaging novella.

Our Little Cruelties – Liz Nugent

I loved this book as I found the relationship between the three brothers fascinating.Having been brought up an only child I loved the way each brother had an opinion of the others that differed quite completely! I would guess that often happens in real life just as we may have an opinion of an acquaintance that turns out to be far from the truth. Each of the three brothers were successful as well as failures during their lives and my opinion of them changed as I progressed through the book. At times I was pleased for them and at others either disgusted or angry at the things they did or others thought they had done. I have a lovely signed copy from the Bloody Scotland event – thank you Liz Nugent for a truly outstanding read!

Amnesia – Michael Ridpath


I found the beginning of this book intriguing as it described the relationship between an elderly gentleman with his young carer extremely well. I don’t usually like a novel where the time flicks backwards and forwards between two eras, but this one was so well written that it all fitted in really well. I did find the plot a little complicated and the coincidence of a covered up murder occurring twice in the main character’s life rather unbelievable. The descriptions of both characters and the surrounding Scottish landscape were extremely good making them all rather dark. There was a good twist at the end too. (less)

The Son – Tom O. Keenan

This is another book I received to review for an award before it was published hence the time taken to put my review on here. I loved this book from the start as it was written from the point of the Cu-Sith  who is the grey dog or soul taker of Gaelic legends. If you hear the three howls of this shadowy creature it is said he is coming to get you very soon. I thought it was such an original and fascinating idea and discovered this is the third in a series of ‘psychosleuth’ about the murder victim’s family. I found the inclusion of the dead boy’s spirit intriguing  and disturbing at the same time. However, I felt that a glossary of the Gaelic words and phrases would have been useful. I have a wee bit of Gaelic so I understood most of it but, if you don’t know that ‘maha’ is just ‘then’ as in OK maha you could be a bit lost. The Highland community where the tale was set was true to life and reminded me of the communities in North Skye where I lived for many years. Acceptance is everything and tales abound! The ending where the father of the victim revealed all he had found in his pursuit of a cover up was fantastic. There were a few typos but, hopefully these will have been sorted before the final printing. 

The House of Lamentations – S. G. MacLean

I was sent this book to review for an award so have been unable to review it until now. I had read a couple of the Damian Seeker series but wasn’t up to date with it so had to do a little research into the period and the king, Charles II, who was in exile. There was an epilogue in the book but, I felt that this would have been better as a prologue for the readers that had not read the others in the series. A map would have been helpful as well although the descriptions of the Netherlands did bring the location to life. I really enjoyed the story as the twists and turns made it intriguing and exciting. The characters were well presented and you were never sure whether they were Royalists or followers of Oliver Cromwell who was on his deathbed at the time. The fact that Seeker had returned from his fake death so could be discovered at any moment added to the suspense throughout the book. Altogether a recommended read if you like historical fiction and I would really love to see these books as a series on TV.

10 Minutes And 38 Seconds in This Strange World – Elif Shafak

The story here is based on the scientific premise that once the heart stops beating the brain actually stays alive for anything up to the longest time recorded so far which is ten minutes and thirty eight seconds! The book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2019 and, sadly, I have seen some quite bad reviews about it. Some people seem to have enjoyed the first part and not the second but, I thoroughly enjoyed it all! It really isn’t as gruesome as the title may lead you to believe as it focuses on a murder victim’s last thoughts after she has been dumped in a rubbish bin in Istanbul. The victim is a prostitute known as Tequila Leila and, in her last thoughts, she tells the story of her childhood and how she ended up in the Street of Brothels. We also hear of the five best friends she meets along the way who come from a variety of genders and suffer some disabilities. In Istanbul there is a cemetery known as the Cemetery of the Companionless where anyone without a family to claim them is buried with no headstone just a number on a wooden post to mark their passing from the world. As Leila, whose birth name was Leyla, has no family that wish to admit even knowing her, this is where her body has been taken. The second part of the book relates the tale of how her friends, with the help of a well meaning mortuary assistant, find where she is in the cemetery and set about removing Leila to a better place. Some of their escapade is amusing and other parts heart wrenching all of which makes for a great read.

Lost Girls – Angela Marsons

Yet another gripping thriller from this author who is one of my favourites and never disappoints. This book concerns two young girls who go missing from a leisure centre as they are waiting to be picked up by a parent. The kidnapper uses a third person to create a distraction in order that the girls can be snatched by someone they think they can trust. As the hours tick by the two sets of parents, who decide to stay in the same house, are pitted against each other, which creates a great tension filled atmosphere in the book. DI Kim Stone goes over and above the call of duty, despite her personal deficits, to try to rescue the girls as the present case has links to a previous one in which only one of two snatched girls is returned. In the course of the investigation these links turn out to be invaluable in tracing the culprit as does the third person used in the distraction. The twist at the end concerning who is actually involved is both surprising and clever! I can thoroughly recommend the books in this series and hope you will enjoy them all.

The Librarian Of Auschwitz – Antonio Iturbe

This book is meant for Young Adult readers but, don’t let that put you off. It is a heroic story of a young girl who survived the holocaust based on the true story of Dita Kraus. As a fourteen year old girl Dita, along with her parents is sent to the ghetto of Terazin and from there to the horrific camp that we know as Auschwitz. At first I felt that the book was a bit too light for the tale it was telling as there seemed to be very little of the fear and menace that these poor people had to endure. However, as the story moves on the true horror of the camp becomes all too apparent. A fellow inmate, Freddy Hirsch, asks Dita if she will become the guardian of the eight tattered books that make up the library in the so called Family Camp – a role which could bring Dita into close scrutiny and worse from the Nazi commandants. She takes her job very seriously even getting special clothes made in order to hide the precious books and risking her life to get all the information she can from the resistance members within the camp. As we know, Dita manages to survive to tell of the horror she and others endured, as well as the stories of those who didn’t make it to the eventual liberation, which the Nazis tried so hard to hide from the rest of the world. Although books on this subject are always rather distressing Dita’s courage and determination to survive shine through to make this an enjoyable read.

The Child’s Child – Barbara Vine

This is my second foray into Ruth Rendell’s books written under the pseudonym Barbara Vine. I always enjoy the psychological elements of this author’s books so was keen to read the Barbara Vine ones and they do not disappoint. This book deals with the emerging acceptance of homosexuality and unmarried mothers within the time periods of the 1930’s and the 1950’s. The first part deals with the 1950’s in which a gay man, moves into a house he has inherited along with his unmarried sister who then becomes pregnant by her brother’s lover. I then wondered if I wanted to go back in time but, I did find both parts intriguing. In the 1930’s tale we meet Maud, who becomes pregnant at fifteen, and is taken to live with her gay brother as his wife in a small village. This should have been an ideal cover up but, it isn’t long before Maud’s brother starts to feel trapped especially when he becomes more involved with his London based lover, Bertie. Of course Maude strongly disapproves of the rather course Bertie and her brother’s relationship with him but, isn’t really in a position to show her true feelings. As always Rendell’s characters are so well defined that a reader can feel that they know someone just like those portrayed in the book. Maud is a particularly well developed character as she starts off as a frightened child who is glad to be cared for by her brother in her time of need and ends up as a despicable person who only cares for herself. Towards the end of the book we return to the 1950’s and see just how the two tales mirror each other in many ways. By the end of both narratives the characters seem mostly to have found their place in life even if it isn’t exactly what they wanted. In some cases they certainly get what can only be described as their ‘come uppence’! What I found most interesting was that, although the time period moved on, the actual moral opinion towards gay men and unmarried mothers had not really changed all that much by the fifties. Thankfully, we have moved on quite a bit in 2020 so there are fewer and fewer people who feel themselves entitled to take such high moral opinions as those we find in this book.

The Queen’s Fool – Philippa Gregory

I have to say that, of all the Philippa Gregory books I have read, this one is my favourite. Set in Tudor times, but instead of focussing on the kings and queens, tells the story of a young Jewish girl, Hannah, who has recently escaped the Spanish Inquisition with her printer father. Living as protestants they set up a printing and book shop in London which, in itself a dangerous endeavour, as in that unstable period in history many books are deemed to be heretical. A visit to the shop by the powerful Sir Robert Dudley, during which Hannah has a vision of an angel, changes her life forever when Dudley begs her for a fool to the king. The reigning monarch is the sickly son of the recently deceased King Henry VIII, and his time on the throne is inevitably short lived. Upon his death, Hannah is passed to Queen Mary and the much more impressive Princess Elizabeth. She then spends her time between these two powerful women but, also answering to her Lord Dudley with whom she falls in love. Hannah is tasked with spying on each of her providers in turn by the other two and has a hard job managing to survive as well as trying to avoid becoming ensnared by men involved in experiments in alchemy as well as plots against those in power. Among her other difficulties she has to deal with those she serves setting great store on Hannah being able to use her gift of the ‘sight’ in their battle for power. She also has a commitment to a young man her father has chosen for her to marry which brings more ups and downs in her life as he tries to persuade her to leave court so they can be married. During all of her time, in and out of court life, Hannah is haunted by the cruel execution of her mother making her greatest fear to be that of her origins and inherited faith being discovered. I found this book really enthralling – it brought me to tears, trepidation, laughter and every emotion in between during the many turns in the tale of Hannah’s life. If you have never read any of this author’s books try this one as I’m sure many other readers will enjoy it as much as I did!